Directory:Article Heaven/SES cognitive processing and public policy media

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Examining different rates of knowledge across SES was first proposed in Tichenor, Donohue, and Olien’s, The Knowledge Gap Hypothesis (1970); and it has been tested for difference in SES (Vswanath & Finnegan, 1996), perceived utility of being informed (McLeod, Perse, 1994), and for differences in diffusion of products across SES (Roberts, 2000). The knowledge gap hypothesis tells us that there are differences among groups based on education and class. Conceptually, this tells us that the knowledge gap has clear implication for understanding the effectiveness of political messages too. If mediated messages are the method that voters use to achieve education on important issues to their interests, then it is important to understand whether those needs are being achieved for all groups, some groups, or any groups. Ultimately, the knowledge gap hypothesis assumes that there is a gap in public knowledge based on SES and it grows larger as education and class separate from one another.

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Contemporary research into the cognitive function of media message processing assumes that humans have a limited capacity for information processing (LC4MP). The theory allows media researchers to examine how efficiently information is encoded, stored, and retrieved via the general associative network. The overall idea is thought-put, and it is called, “cognitive effort because individuals consciously allocate resources to getting the information into their brain. Automatic and controlled mechanisms simultaneously allocate resources to encoding, storage, and retrieval of information” (Sparks, 2006).

Humans, as information processors have a “limited capacity for message processing (LC4MP) of information, and viewers are actively engaged in processing mediated information” (Lang, 2000, p. 52). Like most successful mass communication theories, LC4MP is an amalgam that finds its origins in psychology. Specifically, this theory has its origins in the Limited Capacity Model for understanding cognitive information processing. The most fundamental assumptions of information processing are the three dimensions of cognitive processing. The three dimensions are: 1) encoding, 2) storage, and 3) retrieval. This is how viewers get “stuff” into their heads. Comparatively, research into how people use and process media has also dichotomously examined media behavior as a type that is classified in two categories—news seeking and entertainment seeking behavior. Markus Prior’s (2005) study indicated that there is a large gap in knowledge between groups of people based on their information seeking preferences. It was found that news seeking behavior is an indicator of political knowledge; but, it does not specifically address questions of public policy news, which is an important variable to control for because “soft news” segments while important to the convention are not necessarily critical to the public’s interest in democracy. Some media consumers “pick news for its entertainment value and not for its political importance, which may prevent more complex issues from reaching the public” (McLeod, Kosicki, & McLeod, 2002, p. 229). Hence, by controlling for the “newsworthiness” and the political complexity of the issue, it becomes possible to ask questions of how viewers are remembering public policy news media across socioeconomic status.

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